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Opposition parties push for ethics commissioner to testify on SNC-Lavalin scandal

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With just weeks to go before an election call, opposition MPs plan to put Liberals on the spot today with a motion to bring Canada’s ethics commissioner before a Commons committee to testify about his conclusion that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke Canada’s conflict of interest laws.

“I expect the members of the committee to do the right thing and think first of honesty, transparency and ethics, rather than protecting the image of a highly unethical prime minister,” said Conservative MP Peter Kent, who sits on the Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics.

A week ago, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion reported that Trudeau had violated the Conflict of Interest Act through his attempts to influence then-attorney general and justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on the SNC-Lavalin file.

The commissioner found that, directly or through others under his direction, Trudeau sought to pressure Wilson-Raybould to grant SNC-Lavalin a deferred prosecution agreement, which would have allowed the Quebec-based engineering firm to avoid a trial on corruption and fraud charges.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould in Ottawa, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The report marked the second time a federal ethics commissioner had found Trudeau in violation of conflict of interest law. In 2017 then-commissioner Mary Dawson found the prime minister broke ethics rules when he accepted a trip to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas.

Previous commissioners allowed to testify

The committee invited Dawson to testify after the release of her report, and the same invitation should be extended to Dion, NDP MP Tracey Ramsey said.

“I think it would be viewed as an obstruction for (Liberal MPs on the committee) not to have him come before the committee,” said Ramsey, who will attend today’s committee meeting. “This is what had happened in the past when Mr. Trudeau broke the law before, when we had the previous ethics commissioner come to the committee.”

Kent also echoed the NDP’s comments, saying the ethics commissioner is an officer of Parliament and reports to the committee.

“The (second) Trudeau report is much more serious and deserves much more consideration by the ethics committee,” Kent said.

Commissioner ready to testify ‘on short notice’

Opposition MPs say they want to see the commissioner testify as early as this afternoon. The commissioner’s spokesperson, Mélanie Rushworth, said Dion “will, of course, make himself available on short notice” to appear before the committee.

Liberals hold the majority of seats on the ten-person committee. The Liberal committee vice-chair, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, would not comment ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, his parliamentary assistant told CBC.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May will also participate in the committee meeting Wednesday, a statement from the party said.

The opposition’s track record for getting Liberals to support House of Commons committee investigations has been poor. In March, opposition MPs hurled claims of a “coverup” after Liberals stopped Wilson-Raybould from testifying a second time about the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Subsequently, the Liberals also voted against letting former Vice-Admiral Mark Norman testify after the government dropped a breach of trust charge against him related to leaks of cabinet secrets. Then in July, the Liberals shot down a bid to look into allegations the Liberals attempted to filter comments by Canada’s former ambassadors to China as the diplomatic and trade relationship between Ottawa and Beijing hit new lows.

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Incumbents hold onto Vancouver seats

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The Liberals and NDP held onto some key seats in Metro Vancouver on election night, while the Conservatives swept the Fraser Valley, taking back some seats lost four years ago.

The political map for the Lower Mainland turned out to be a colourful one, with blobs of orange, red and blue, plus just a hint of grey in Vancouver Granville, where former cabinet minister Jody Wilson-Raybould held onto her seat as an independent.

Overall, there were fewer changes on election night in the Lower Mainland than many other places in Canada: In 20 of 26 electoral districts, the incumbent party — or candidate, in the case of Wilson-Raybould — were leading or elected, with a few close races going late into the night.

There were, however, a few suburban areas where voters decided to switch back to the Conservative Party, following a 2015 election where the Liberals won ridings in which they historically weren’t competitive.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh kept his seat in Burnaby South, while incumbent New Democrats Jenny Kwan, Don Davies and Peter Julian held onto theirs in the party’s strongholds of Vancouver East, Vancouver Kingsway and New Westminster-Burnaby.

The Liberals kept their seats in Vancouver Centre, Vancouver Quadra, Vancouver South, North Vancouver, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, Burnaby North-Seymour, Delta, Surrey Centre, Surrey-Newton,  Fleetwood-Port Kells and Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam.

Conservative incumbent Alice Wong won the riding of Richmond Centre, while the Tories stole seats from the Liberals in South Surrey-White Rock, Cloverdale-Langley City and Steveston-Richmond East, and from the NDP in Port Moody-Coquitlam.

South Surrey-White Rock’s Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who will be returning to Ottawa as a Conservative MP after a four-year absence, told CBC she’s optimistic despite being in opposition for the first time.

“I know how to navigate in Ottawa. I know how to speak up for B.C. and the Lower Mainland,” she said. “It’s important that the people who go to Ottawa from as far away as we live, that they go with passion and energy.”

Wilson-Raybould, at one time the Liberal justice minister, won Vancouver Granville after a tight three-way race with her opponents in the Liberal and Conservative parties.

Conservatives sweep through Fraser Valley

Further east in the Fraser Valley, incumbent Conservatives were returned in Abbotsford, Langley-Aldergrove and Chilliwack-Hope.

The party also picked up seats from the Liberals in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon and Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge.

Supporters of independent candidate Jody Wilson-Raybould cheer at her election night celebration. The former Liberal cabinet minister is projected to retain her seat in Vancouver Granville. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Nationwide, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau held on to just enough seats in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario to secure a minority government after a tight campaign that saw the two leading parties struggle to break out of the pack.

While final ballots are still being counted in several ridings, the Liberals are expected to win 156 seats and form a minority government.

With no single party holding a majority of votes in the House of Commons, longtime Vancouver Centre Liberal Hedy Fry said co-operation will be key for her party.

“We as Liberals have to be able to work with others who share our values and, of course, those values could be things like health care, mental health, addictions as a public health issue, housing, helping the middle class and helping get children out of poverty,” she told CBC.

“If we can find people who share those values, we’re prepared to work with anyone.”

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Doug Ford congratulates Trudeau on election win

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TORONTO – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s ready to work with the newly re-elected Liberal government in Ottawa.

Ford issued a statement Tuesday morning congratulating Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his victory and applauding all federal leaders for a “hard fought campaign.”

He says he looks forward to working with Ottawa to address “shared priorities,” including infrastructure, internal trade and mental health.

He also praised Trudeau’s commitment to helping fund the provincial government’s planned “Ontario Line” subway project that would ease congestion in Toronto’s transit system.

Ford’s statement stands out for its conciliatory tone, particularly in light of how much the Ontario premier was a target of Liberal criticism throughout the campaign.

Trudeau had repeatedly invoked Ford’s name and policy decisions when warning of the potential consequences of a Conservative election win.

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Liberals look to hold N.S. seats as other parties seek electoral breakthroughs

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Liberals look


Four years ago, Sean Fraser was part of a Liberal team that surfed a red wave to a majority government.

There was no wave on Monday night as Fraser faced a star challenger in the form of country musician and Conservative candidate George Canyon. But in the end it didn’t matter — Fraser is headed back to Ottawa to represent the riding of Central Nova after pulling in more than 46 per cent of the vote.

“I used to play a lot of basketball growing up and I remember the games where we beat a good team by two a lot more than I remember the ones where we beat up on a small school by 40,” he said in a telephone interview.

“And this feels like we beat a good team by a healthy margin. It wasn’t just a star candidate. It was tens of thousands of dollars that they poured into Facebook ads, radio ads, TV ads, a visit from the leader. And we pulled it off in any event.”

Fraser wasn’t the only Nova Scotia Liberal re-elected Monday night, part of an effort that saw the party earn a minority government in the House of Commons.

Andy Fillmore is greeted by supporters at his Halifax campaign office after holding his seat in Monday’s election. (Pam Berman/CBC News)

Andy Fillmore was re-elected as MP for Halifax, Darren Fisher was re-elected in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour and Darrell Samson will return as MP for Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook. 

Bernadette Jordan — a cabinet minister in the Trudeau government — will return as MP in South Shore-St. Margarets and Geoff Regan, perhaps the surest electoral bet in Nova Scotia, returns as MP for Halifax West.

Fisher said he was humbled by his second victory, as well as by the 100 volunteers who greeted him as he arrived at a victory party.

“It’s an overwhelming feeling when you run for election and you see the effort and the work that’s put in by people that care about you, but also people that care about their community,” he said.

Jordan said she was thrilled by her win.

“We’re going to have a good night tonight and then tomorrow we’ll start all over again,” she said.

Liberal Kody Blois, the declared winner in Nova Scotia’s Kings-Hants riding, walks into his campaign headquarters Monday night. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

Fillmore said he took nothing for granted during the campaign.

“I’m just ecstatically grateful for the people of Halifax to send me to Ottawa to represent them for another term.”

Conservatives take West Nova

While the Liberals won all 11 Nova Scotia ridings in 2015, they didn’t run the table this year.

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Chris d’Entremont flipped the traditional swing riding of West Nova back to the Conservatives.

Provincially, d’Entremont has been used to easy wins. Monday was much more hard-fought, with just a few percentage points separating him from Liberal challenger Jason Deveau.

“There’s a lot more work that goes into this, but I can tell you over the last few hours I think I’ve never been more stressed,” d’Entremont said in a phone interview.

Former Tory MLA Chris d’Entremont is headed to Ottawa to represent West Nova for the Conservative Party of Canada. (CBC)

As the dust settles on the election, d’Entremont said he’s hoping everyone takes stock of the campaign and tries to dial back the rhetoric that, at times, was nasty all across the country.

“I’m going to try my best to work around, I would say, that mean-spiritedness that goes amongst all the parties,” he said.

“I’ve shown as an MLA that I’ve been able to work across party lines, that I’ve gotten things done for my area, and, you know, I really think that we just need to all take a step back and consider what happened during this election.”

Historic first win

Jaime Battiste overcame controversy during the campaign related to racist and sexist social media posts from a few years ago to become Nova Scotia’s first Indigenous MP and hold Sydney-Victoria for the Liberals, defeating a slate of candidates that included former Tory MLA Eddie Orrell.

The resident of Eskasoni First Nation holds a seat made vacant following the retirement of longtime Liberal MP Mark Eyking. He is also now the first Mi’kmaw MP in the House of Commons. 

In winning the riding of Sydney-Victoria for the Liberals, Jaime Battiste becomes the first Mi’kmaw MP and Nova Scotia’s first Indigenous MP. (CBC)

Battiste said he believes his was the most diverse campaign in the province, focusing on people from all backgrounds.

“I am really happy to be the winner today and I am going to work hard every day to show Canadians, not only Cape Breton, that I won this for a reason,” he said.

“I believe in Canada, I believe in reconciliation, I believe in diversity and these are the things I ran on,” Battiste said.

Addressing his controversial social media posts, Battiste said all he can do is apologize and move forward.

“I’ve always been a person who believes in diversity and who believes in equal rights.”

Long night for Zann

The last race of the night to be called was also the closest, with Liberal candidate Lenore Zann holding Cumberland-Colchester for the Grits.

Zann topped Conservative candidate Scott Armstrong, himself a former MP for the riding, for a seat that was up for grabs following the retirement of Nova Scotia political legend Bill Casey.

“Wow, what a roller-coaster ride,” said Zann, calling it the most fun campaign she’s run.

Zann was previously an NDP MLA who resigned to run federally. 

Zann said she believes a minority government where the Liberals govern with the support of the NDP and Greens will be healthy for the country.

“In many countries, what we call hung parliaments, or minorities, work very well.”

Fresh faces in Ottawa

First-time winner Kody Blois didn’t have to wait nearly as long in holding the riding of Kings-Hants for the Liberals.

The young lawyer, running in his first federal election, won the seat that essentially belonged to longtime MP Scott Brison, who announced his retirement from politics earlier this year.

Moments after arriving at what amounted to a victory party, Blois said it was a “surreal” and “incredible” feeling.

Mike Kelloway, the new MP for Cape Breton-Canso, poses for a picture with campaign volunteers Harmanjot Singh Chahal (left) and Mubashir Ahmad Badar (right). (Tom Ayers/CBC)

They’ll be joined in Ottawa by fellow first-time Liberal winner Mike Kelloway, who continues a Liberal hold on the Cape Breton-Canso seat following the retirement of veteran MP Rodger Cuzner. Kelloway bested a field of six other candidates that included former Tory MLA Alfie MacLeod.

Kelloway called for unity in his victory speech.

“No matter what sign you had on your lawn, right now we are all one community and that is the way we will need to move forward,” he said.

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